The Library of Trinity College Dublin
Colm Murray and Jane Maxwell
10 years later ...
Ten years is a long time in digital humanities. A decade ago the Library of Trinity College Dublin digitally imaged and published its first manuscript online. The manuscript chosen was a two-volume collection of paintings by military engineer Captain Sir William Smith (1778 - 1832). To mark the anniversary this exhibition of some of Smith's work has been curated for the Library by Colm Murray, the architectural officer of the Heritage Council of Ireland.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/53 (1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
Smith’s first drawings of Ireland suggest that he made a trip from Drogheda to Clonmel in 1795, passing through Swords, Dunshaughlin, Kilcullen, Athy, Leighlinbridge, Carlow, Kilkenny, Callan, and Jerpoint along the way. It may have been that his military commission was bringing him to Cork. Here, Swords Round Tower and adjacent tower house, in north Co Dublin, are depicted with vertiginous perspective to emphasise their height. The round tower is the only remnant of a monastery founded by St. Columba/St. Colmcille in 512CE.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/52 (1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
In his caption for this sketch Smith speciifes his location as 'Ireland’ – suggesting that he was newly-arrived from Scotland. The location is given as Drogheda, Co Louth: is it St. Lawrence’s Gate or perhaps St. Mary D’Urso?
William Smith manuscript vol 2/50 (1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
The proper identity of the castle depicted in this drawing is a mystery. Although the name has quite an Irish ring to it, no ‘Shanowen’ townland can be found in Ireland, and the name is not Scottish, despite the caption. The sweep of coast in the background, never a feature casually depicted by Smith, suggest the Mourne Mountains, and that this could be a now-demolished tower house at Dillonstown, Annagassen, Co Louth.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/62 (c. 1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
This is one of three informative drawings Smith made of Carlow Castle, presumably on the same visit. Carlow Castle, which was built in the thirteenth century, was the first castle with a towered keep built in Ireland. It was badly damaged by its owner the Earl of Thomond, in 1814, in an attempt to demolish part of it using explosives; further demolition had then to take place to make the remains safe. Smith’s drawing, most likely done in 1795, is more detailed than those of Daniel Grose (1792 and 1804), showing credible details of the windows and stonework. Smith’s medium (pencil and watercolour), choice of viewpoint (allowing his subject matter to fill the composition) technique (rendering the curved walls in gradations of wash) and naturalistic style make for a more eloquent record.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/64 (1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
Kilkenny was part of Smith's journey south. Here he has drawn Evan’s Tower or turret, which now no longer has its roof, and St. Francis’ Abbey, the thirteenth-century Cistercian foundation.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/70 (1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
This large and detailed colour drawing of Fethard, Co Tipperary predates that by Victor Du Noyer (1840) and shows the defensive tower on the town walls that overlooked the bridge.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/207 (1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
Continuing South, this is likely to be Lisronagh, on the road from Fethard to Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The Ordnance Survey records, in the Royal Irish Academy, record that the ground floor of the tower house was inhabited at the time of its inspection in 1840: 'A door, locked, prevented entrance to the ground floor; a man who lives in [the] castle and was absent on business somewhere, having secured it on his going out'. (R.I.A., Rev Michael O'Flanagan 1930, vol. 2, 145).
William Smith manuscript vol 2/72 (1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
This sketch of what is now called Ormond Castle in Carrick-on-Suir depicts the great hall and the other older buildings within the keep with their roofs on. It gives a sense of the palatial scale of the residence of 'Black Tom' Butler (c.1531-1614), the 10th Earl of Ormond, who kept the balance of power between Elizabeth and his Irish relations in the Palatinate of Ormond in the second half of the sixteenth century.
Smith was a captain in the Royal Engineers' Office stationed in Buncrana, Co Donegal. Many of his paintings depict buildings and scenes in that county. He himself was responsible for the building of a number of Napoleonic-era signal towers there, under Major-General Sir Charles Ross
William Smith manuscript vol 1/38 (1806) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
The flowing lines of the old Norman Northburgh Castle,also called Green Castle in Co Donegal, including their ivy covering, are captured in the vigorous lines of this drawing. Note also how these are counterposed with the prim description of the adjacent farmhouse, identified as that of Mr McIntyre in another drawing. The drawing predated the construction of the Martello tower and battery here at the entrance to Lough Foyle. A sequence of different vantage points of these ruins done by Smith at this time provide enough evidence to model the ruin three dimensionally
William Smith manuscript vol 2/93 (1796) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
This is one of five drawing of Donegal Castle done by Smith. At the time he was posted in Enniskillen and was reviewing the fortifications at Ballyshannon, Belleek and Enniskillen, suggesting that the River Erne was being considered as a line of defence if the French attempted to invade through Donegal. The depiction of the drumlin in the background is accurate.
William Smith manuscript vol 1/27 (1804) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
Smith’s drawings depict Moress castle, a MacSwiney tower house, now in a more ruinous state, perhaps out of professional interest, or because he was anticipating that their strategic locations in the landscape could have relevance if the French did invade.
William Smith manuscript vol 1/7 (1804) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
The entrance to Lough Swilly, depicted by the man charged to fortify it against invasion by a French navy force. The landscape of the north coast of Ireland was clearly being considered as it might be visible from the sea – in fact, as a seascape.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/190 (1815) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
This image contains important information about the construction of Martello towers, including the formwork for erecting a brick vault on a circular plan, a complex geometric shape. The ladders and poles used in the construction of stone buildings appear occasionally in Smith’s drawings. Smith was charged with minor building tasks related to the defence of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle from the Napoleonic threat. He had even seen action in Collooney against General Humbert in 1798, being, in his own words, ‘one of the last men to retreat’.
William Smith manuscript vol 1/58 (1802) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
Carrickabrachy Castle, Inishowen, Co Donegal. The drawing emphasises the rock formations on which the castle is founded. These details, often lost in the sketched generalities of the foreground of other drawings, have been very precisely rendered by Smith. This would have been of a practical concern to a military man who might have to build a fort or battery on this seashore.
William Smith manuscript vol 1/45 (1804) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
View of Lough Swilly, Co Donegal, as seen from rocks near to McAmish Point looking the way of Knockallaw and Dunree Fort or Batteries. Two faint pencil lines depict the signal stations and are likely to have been intentionally drawn to illustrate the intervisibility of this fort and those lookout stations
William Smith manuscript vol 1/66 (1802) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
The Giant's Causeway in Co Antrim. This large-scale drawing contains much precise observation of this natural phenomenon. It could be compared to the descriptions of the same feature by Admiral Lord Mark Kerr (1676-1752), in 1833.
William Smith manuscript vol 1/75 (1802) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
Dunluce Castle on the Antrim Coast, defended by its precipitous setting on the cliff-top, accessible only by a bridge, and with a cave below, was the inspiration for the Pyke stronghold in ‘Game of Thrones’. Smith depicts the rocks and cliffs with as much attention to detail as the buildings which are the central feature and point of interest of this drawing.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/15 (c. 1795) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
Some of the illustrations in Smith's albums are of places in Scotland. These final two are included here to illustrate Smith's artistic process. Spynie Castle, a former bishop’s palace, is a Scottish national monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.
The artist's annotations in pencil are difficult to read, but clearly represent Smith's notes to himself for the subsequent more detailed drawing.
William Smith manuscript vol 2/185 (1778) by Captain Sir William SmithThe Library of Trinity College Dublin
The second drawing of Spynie Castle in Scotland, further illustrates Smith's artistic process. Having done a pencil sketch, Smith then produced this watercolour version. This evidence suggests that second watercolour versions of other pencil sketches might have been made and may continue to exist in collections in Ireland or Scotland.
Curator: Colm Murray, Architectural Officer, Heritage Council of Ireland
Library liaison: Jane Maxwell
Technical curator: Greg Sheaf
Images: Gill Whelan.
Grateful thanks to Leanne Harrington.
The fully digitised manuscript may be seen on the Library's Digital Collections https://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/home/